Gliding up the escalator to Sake no Hana you can shed your worries like autumn leaves; safe in the knowledge that you’ll be well looked after here. This a Japanese restaurant that offers a fine blend of both ambience and cuisine.
A hearty ‘irrashiamase’ welcome from the sushi chefs working at the bar & kitchen positioned right at the top of the escalator is always music to the ears. Entering the sleek space, you can’t help but notice the long beautiful bamboo blinds at the windows, and the modern architectural installation of wood beams above.
It’s just such a clever feat to make the interior feel quite so fresh and stripped back; yet so cosy, buzzy and welcoming. Dipped lighting and candles on the tables are terrible for food photography, but cleverly conducive to conversation. They really do get it right – it’s divine for a date – but also fun for a larger party.
When and Why? A date night on a Thursday autumn evening.
First Impressions: Love the autumn leaves installation. In Japan, ‘momoji-gari’ is the act of appreciating the show of fiery autumn leaves, and is perhaps second only to the better-known springtime custom of ‘hanami’ (cherry blossom viewing). The changing autumn leaves are particularly spectacular when lit up at night.
Autumn in the UK can be blustery and damp, and our leaves rarely reach the desired depths of hue, somehow. So it’s lovely to see Sake no Hana’s splendid installation of colourful leaves and lighting outside the restaurant. It puts you into the right frame of mind to enjoy a seasonal menu!
What we ate: The Autumn Leaves set menu, created by Executive Chef Hideki Hiwatashi.
‘Kinoko Misojitate’ was the slight twist on miso soup that came as a starter. Although I usually prefer to have my miso soup to accompany a meal, how delightful it was to wrap chilly hands around the warmth of the understated pottery cup it was served in. The waiter even made sure we’d appreciate the experience by suggesting we ditch the spoon – talk about teaching your grandmother to suck eggs 😉
Next, a tiny tray of perfectly arrayed ‘fukiyose’ seasonal delights is thoughtful and elegant; replete with earthy autumnal tastes: ‘Maguro Tartar’ tuna with egg yolk sauce, ‘Crispy Truffle Rice’ with seasonal mushrooms, and ‘Shikkake Tofu’ mushrooms filled with homemade tofu and wasabi sauce, a few crunchy sweet potato and beetroot crisps with soba noodles.
The main course is chosen from a selection and we both went for the ‘Kisetsu Tempura Moriawase’ with prawns and seasonal vegetables (tempura is so simple – yet so hard to get right at home!). It was all light and lacy. The dipping sauce was served with the traditional daikon and ginger to add in, but not quite enough of each, as I’d have to say the flavour was too delicate.
Sushi followed the main, ‘Gunma Wagyu A5 Beef Maki’, ‘Spicy Chirashi Maki’ and ‘Kyoto Inari Sushi’, two pieces of each in a ‘crystal’ box to show off the attention to detail. Melt-in-your-mouth quality, with a great fresh wasabi.
The hazelnut and chocolate mousse was scrumptious, and happily the airy maple leaf biscuit was not just a garnish! The carefully curated cuisine reflects the attention to detail that is Sake no Hana’s trademark. Quality ingredients shine through.
Service: Extremely attentive. The sommelier suggested an affordable white wine that paired elegantly with the meal. The wine waiters must have (unobtrusively) topped up our wine glasses a dozen times. It made me realise how nice it was to be drinking wine at the perfectly chilled temperature throughout the meal.
Prices? Again, Sake no Hana gets it right. £40.00 per person for the autumn set menu is a snip for something so carefully thought out, and served in such an engaging environment. In London, it’s so easy to spend that on something distinctly unmemorable, so do yourself a favour and visit Sake no hana instead!
Toilets: Take the lift down to super sleek wooden walls and Aesop handwash, babies.
Come again? Definitely, it’s lovely in the colder months, and we’ll be there to enjoy the annual springtime cherry blossom installation with accompanying exquisite sushi menu.
Sake No Hana
23 St James Street
I was invited to review.